There is an underlying theme to this novel, and that is the war in the Falklands that has affected England and comes home to Jason with the death in combat of the older brother of a friend. The ongoing war is also an indicator of Jason’s maturing as his interests change from boyhood play to girls, and war, and death, and sex, and his enlarging the world around him by studying it more closely.
Mitchell seems to challenge his protagonist in ways that teach him about people. Each chapter is linear in time, but each brings in an episode that differs from the others in installing a new hurdle of sorts for him to overcome or digest and evaluate. The episodes tie in in subtle ways; Jason’s view of a young couple having sex under a tree in which he’s hiding gives him an indication of male/female relationships. This, against the growing discontent between his father and mother–likely over a suspected affair that has been foreshadowed beautifully in the opening of the story–has him questioning the changes between young love and years of marriage.
In the chapter I’ve just finished, Jason is taking a long walk through the outskirts of town to investigate a mysterious underground tunnel. For me, it serves as a metaphor for this particular stage in his life between adolescence and manhood. What he encounters along the way are surely representative of life’s own curves and walls to climb around or over.